John Bateman is leaving Canberra Raiders - will he return to Wigan Warriors?

John Bateman is leaving Canberra a year earlyJohn Bateman is leaving Canberra a year early
John Bateman is leaving Canberra a year early
Speculation linking John Bateman with a possible return to Wigan intensified today after Canberra confirmed he will leave at the end of this season.

The Raiders are releasing the ex-Warriors forward with a year remaining on his deal so he can "pursue other long-term options."

Club CEO Don Furner said it had been a "difficult decision".

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Many Wigan fans will be hoping the move paves the way for a return to the club where he became a fans' favourite until his departure at the end of 2018 when the Raiders paid a six-figure transfer fee to recruit him.

The Warriors' position is clear - they would welcome him back if he wants to return to England.

They parted on good terms, he is valued as a player and when he departed there was a loose agreement in place if he returned - with a ballpoint figure of what he may earn.

But Bateman would almost certainly earn more money by remaining in Australia, where he was named Dally M backrower of the year last season.

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Struggling NRL sides St George Illawarra, Canterbury Bulldogs and Gold Coast Titans have all been linked with him. Bateman has previously indicated he wants to earn as much as possible during his career for his daughter, Millie, who still lives in England.

Bateman could command a marquee contract in Super League – meaning only £175,000 of his deal would count on the £2.1m salary cap.

But even with that allowance he would surely need to take a financial hit to return home. Wigan's income from the Sky Sports TV deal is around £300,000 less because of the coronavirus crisis and all clubs have lost revenue from so many games being wiped out.

The NRL's official website reports Wigan have tabled a four-year deal worth around £250,000 a season. Canterbury's offer is around £350,000 a season for three years.

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Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, who has also recruited Ryan Sutton, George Williams - as well as youngster Harry Rushton for 2021 - from Wigan, pointed the finger at Bateman's controversial agent, Isaac Moses.

He said: "I'm proud of the club for putting a timeline on it. We were sick of waiting. It's disappointing, John is a world-class player and to lose him disappoints me.

"We've worked so hard to build a strong roster and to have players pulled out of it, disappoints me, the way the game allows it.

"The game really need to help clubs in regards to how we have to deal with certain managers, in the way they agitate clubs and manipulate communications to suit them only. It's not always in the best interests of the players."